The Magic is Back

The Magic is Back

Neoliberalism was born and dies in Chile

It was never really gone, but it is now front and center, proud, visible. Not hiding. Taking it’s righteous place.

I’m talking about what happened last weekend in Chile. After 30 years of a democracy that didn’t feel inclusive, equitable, diverse, or fair – a direct result of Chile being the first lab in the terrifying neoliberal experiment that prioritizes things over people, people are changing things. And they are not changing them a little bit, on the edges, in the periphery, with apologies. No, no, no, no siree, this time we are changing things deeply, transformatively, from the ground up.

I am talking about the first ever modern nation state that has agreed to write a brand spanking new Constitution, crafted by the first ever democratically chosen group of 155 people that embodies gender equity, diversity, and thank Goddess, left leaning tendencies. And by left leaning I mean an understanding that we are all in this together, and that government can and should serve the people. I mean left leaning as opposed to “If you don’t have money, tough shit” which is the more common right leaning approach. That’s all I mean for these purposes.

Even a short few years ago, the idea of creating a Constitution sounded absurd. “You can’t just rewrite the most basic document of governance in a country!” Oh yeah, hold my drink, why the hell not? If it’s not serving the people, if it’s corrupt, if it’s hurting us, TEAR THE MOFO DOWN!!!! When I was young, the most infuriating thing I would hear about why progress couldn’t happen in Chile was that some ideas were “unconstitutional”, and I’m like, “Yeah but a dictator wrote the Constitution (not quite, but basically), so can’t we just get rid of those bits?” And I would be met with eyerolls and sighs of “poor baby – no entiende nada.”

Anyway, time went by, and “all of a sudden”, after 30 years of trying to tweak things and try social and political change by any and all means possible, Chileans realized that there’s no way to eat a turd that will make it taste good. We need to get an actual meal. In October of 2019, a “social outburst” aka estallido social, began (you can read my writing about it here and here) and ended with a democratic referendum for the country to go through a process to write a new Constitution. But not just any ol’ Constitution, a Constitution to be written by a Constitutional Assembly of real everyday people that actually represent their peers, not a bunch of corrupt career politicians. 

Once the referendum took place (which had to be delayed due to the pandemic), EIGHTY percent of Chileans who voted expressed their desire for a new constitution written for and by their fellow countryfolk. Those 155 people were elected last weekend and they now have 9 months – the same time it takes to create a new life) to deliver the document. They may be able to get a one time only extension of 3 months, which means that in a year we should have a new Constitution that then will be taken to the polls for a Yes or No referendum. 

And who’s in charge of this massive job of writing a new Constitution? By the numbers:

  • 77 women and 78 men
  • 60 lawyers
  • 45 years old on average
  • 41% under 39 years of age
  • ⅔ quorum needed, meaning that consensus building will be necessary and no one will be able to impose their views without negotiation, collaboration, or compromise.
  • 17 are representatives of Indigenous people. 

How this will all turn out, we will not know for another year. This is what we do know: what we’ve been doing until now has been failing miserably. The fact that the first place that was subjected to the neoliberal model is the first place to take radical action to reject it, and embrace an open, democratic, and fair process to try something new, is poetry. I also don’t think it’s an accident. Chile has had it with this because we’ve been putting up with it for the longest. May the transformation that we are engaged in lead us to a better tomorrow, may it inspire other nations, may it center Life and Love and Human Rights. I have no doubt it will.

So mote it be.

Rites of passage as limits and boundaries

Rites of passage as limits and boundaries

Left: Billie Eilish age 17, right: Billie Eilish for Vogue interview age 19

I like to think that back in the day, before the industrial revolution, when an infected tooth could kill us cause we didn’t have antibiotics yet, ritual was a more explicit and clear part of our lives. If you’re into anthropology, ethnography or even sociology, you might have read about all the different rites that announce a life, demark childhood from adulthood, how care of elders differs from other types of care, how death can be accepted and processed in many different ways – and us witches maintain that how we do any and all of these things has a big impact on the quality of our earthly lives.

Take Billie Eilish, for example. She is a 19 year old ridiculously talented musician who became absurdly famous as a teenager – read, as a child. Being a public persona, all her fans and the media follow her every move, and she chose a baggy clothing style as her trademark so people wouldn’t comment on her body or give her shit of any type. This is both brilliant on her part, and demoralizing and depressing that she had to hide her body as defense from nameless assholes who feel entitled to having opinions about women’s bodies. 

Anyway, she grew up in the public eye and just this month she is on the cover of Vogue magazine in what are considered traditionally super sexy and provocative clothes: lingerie, corsets, high heels, stockings, the works. Most of her fans love the look, a few feel she “sold out”, most people aware of such celebrity comings and going have an opinion. 

My opinion is this: I love that this 19 year old young woman chose to scream to the world, with her look and style, “I’m a sexy grown-ass woman”, and that she didn’t do it at 17. I think she probably would have done it at 18 but the pandemic and all, so who knows. Her Vogue cover leaves no doubt about the fact that she is choosing a very specific look, with very specific connotations, that are appropriate for an adult and not a child. 

And while the difference between 17 and 18 may not be that much, and it may be that at those ages humans are already mostly grown, and probably super sexually charged, it is important that we draw the line somewhere. Why? Because we can’t be protecting young ones from older predators on an individual basis. While sexual consent is a whole nother topic, it is important that as a society we agree that it is not available until children are grown ups, and that the limit of childhood, the boundary of adulthood, occurs at 18 years of age. 

This doesn’t mean that you are fully grown and won’t continue to mature after 18, it just means that before then, you are a kid, and you deserve our love and care and protection as a child. And that after 18, you are free to run wild and trash your life or thrive, as you see fit.

My gut reaction to Billie Eilish’s new look was that of “OK, she gets to do whatever the hell she wants now that she is a woman. Glad that she shared with the world such an explicit memo”.  When younger media personalities are sexualized, it’s confusing and dangerous for all involved. I super apprecite the clarity of the boundary this photo shoot as rite of passage communicates. It is now clear to all that Billie Eilish is no longer a child, and this has been communicated at an appropriate time. How refreshing! May we all find the rites of passage we need for all stages of our lives.

2020

2020

This is what January 1st 2020 looked like in Chile. I swear it felt more promising than it looked.

This is what January 1st 2020 looked like in Chile. I swear it felt more promising than it looked.

I love me a new year. As an Aries, the idea of a fresh start is what I’m all about. The blank page. The cleanliness of not having messed up yet. The potential of everything being possible and nothing holding me back.

This is just optimism, I guess, and I can plug into it any time of year. But something about this January makes it seem believable. 2020 has a nice ring to it, and it’s not gonna be hard for this year to be better than last, cause last year was the worst. Year. Ever. So I’m feeling optimistic.

First of all, as much shit as we had to deal with in 2019, I am certain it is the fertilizer that 2020 needed to be fruitful and good and fun. Or at least to help us all grow. (Disclaimer: in my experience growth is always fruitful but rarely feels good or fun, fingers crossed for this one).

Here is how I see 2020 turning last year’s shit into gold:

  • Personally, I went through the worst breakup ever in 2019. My man moved out of our home exactly a year ago tomorrow, at my request. We were still adoring and torturing each other in equal measure for several months after that, and it didn’t feel like it was actually over-over until the middle of the year. I absolutely do not recommend that approach but that is what it took. Ugh. How is this gonna turn into gold, you ask? I am crystal clear on what I am hoping for in a relationship, I am also super confident that it is not impossible to get what I want in this regard, but I’m also not sweating it. For way too long I was quite anxious about the idea of “ending up alone”, and while I am really excited about meeting a man that can be my life partner and do this crazy ride together, I also know that if that were to not happen, it will be quite alright, thank you very much. I know that humans are social beings and I do believe that being part of a couple can make life better and easier for people in many many ways. It can also make it worse and harder (hello last attempt! Ha). But I also know that if people are single – if I am single – life is not necessarily any shittier. (Please know that to genuinely feel this way takes an insane amount of personal work and spiritual practice). And with that, I’m feeling pretty OK about everything today, which is freaking badass. It helps me feel open to whatever 2020 might bring.
  • Globally, the world is fucking coming to a goddamn end. It is no longer those of us that have been working on environmental and social justice issues for evah that are saying it. It is now totally mainstream and accepted that the natural world is getting her ass kicked, that politics are becoming more contentious and polarized globally, and that we are way in over our heads as a people to deal with the challenges of the 21st Century. The good news about this, is that if there is no problem, there is no solution. So for as long as there is no climate change, there is no fixing it. For as long as there is no racism, there is no healing it. For as long as democracy is not at risk, we can pretend like it’s working just fine. I believe that in 2020 it is totally OK to say that there is climate change, racism is alive and well, and democracy is at risk globally. Those are just 3 of the many many problems that we are facing together, and we can have some hope of addressing them because we are collectively pulling our head out of our ass and admitting we are screwed. And I believe that facing the problem, no matter what it is, is way harder than solving it. So, as far as I’m concerned, we’re on our way, cause we are becoming slightly more willing to face the mess we’ve made. So yay humans!

I have to choose to believe that Life will prevail (she always does) and that we will find a way to be grateful for the entirety of the experience. Because, very much like the existence of a God, trying to figure out if the concept makes sense or not is pointless. What is certain is that how I feel and how I experience life is better when I make a certain choice. And for 2020, I choose to believe that Life will prevail and that I can be grateful for the whole of it.

Mil gracias, blessed be.

 

 

 

 

Once more for the back: we’re all in it together

Once more for the back: we’re all in it together

People are this pissed

Santiago de Chile exploded into the most intense expression of social unrest it’s seen in probably ever. The city is literally up in flames, roads are blocked, protesters are rioting, and the MILITARY took on the streets to restore order. And there is a CURFEW. Over half of the Metro stations (77 out of 135) have been “considerably damaged”, 9 of them were completely burnt down. Let that sink in: completely burnt down.

What the fresh fuck happened? How did the most solid and stable economy in Latin America turned into a war zone in a short week? Like everything that happens seemingly overnight, this one had been cooking for a while. I would argue, over a decade. So, how we got here: the straw that broke the camel’s back was an increase on the Metro fare, which led to mass fare evasion initiated in protest by high school students – who are the most badass in the world – and joined in by the rest of the population in the following days.

The metro fare was raised to the equivalent of a bit over a buck – one dollar – which would mean 21% of your minimum wage would go to transportation, and for 70% of Chileans it means they would spend between 13-14% of their monthly wages on public transport. Part of the issue is that public transport is not totally public, and so these increases are for transnational corporations’ profits.

This fare evasion tactic quickly escalated into what can only best be described as a complete and utter clusterfuck. When the Minister of Economy suggested folks should get up earlier to catch the Metro at the cheaper off-peak time, and President Piñera was photographed dining at an upscale restaurant Friday night when the city was going up in flames, shit didn’t go down well.

And what had been a call for mass fare evasion in protest turned into rioting, looting, arson, public transportation being screeched to a complete halt, a breakdown of the social contract, the military taking on the streets, and a curfew being imposed in an attempt to get people to stay home. The Metro hike has been rolled back to pacify the masses, but the thing is, this was never about just the Metro.

Rebellion in Santiago against the precarization of life

Basically, the neoliberal capitalist economy built on the back of most to benefit a few hitting the fan. Chile has the highest per capita income in Latin America and the biggest social inequity. So it looks fantastic on paper, but it’s actually doing horribly (a lot like San Francisco if you really think about it).

Let’s be clear:

  • This is not about right vs. left.
  • This is not about the price of the Metro.
  • This is not about the corruption of the elites.
  • This is not about the shameful health system, or the pathetic pension system.
  • This is not about the price increase of most basic goods and services.
  • This is not about the criminalizing of protest.

This is about the fact that most people are set up to struggle for life. Most people need to make humongous efforts on the daily just to cover their most basic needs and have a decent life. They’ve been set up by a system that couldn’t give a fuck about them and has been designed to milk them for all they’re worth, while a few elites laugh all the way to the bank and back. And that system is called neoliberal capitalism, that by definition requires patriarchy, white supremacy, false dichotomies, and oppression in order to function. And hopefully, we’re not gonna uphold it any more.

My less optimistic loved ones believe that the “agreement” in Chile from here on out will be to fuck over most people just a little bit less in order to quench social unrest and go back to “normal”, and that at this late stage of the current system we don’t even need violent repression for too long cause the unspoken agreement is that we get to blame “those criminals” and we think we’re all clean and good and we can go back to “the way things are”. I have to admit, that’s probably how it’s gonna play out, but what I really dream about is the beginning of the end of the nation state as we know it and a way of organizing that is people-centric rather than focused exclusively on perpetual growth and profit. I don’t see why not. Actually, I see a gazillion reasons why not, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

Chile is just the most recent example of what happens when we forget that we’re all in this together. We cannot have “the economy” look good on paper while so many people are struggling to function in a system that by design disdains them without ALL OF US being handed the bill. And the bill that Chile got this weekend might take way longer to pay off than the government originally anticipated.  Goddess bless us all.

Botox is the new black: On Vanity and Resistance

Botox is the new black: On Vanity and Resistance

This is what Botox-free a.k.a. wrinkled AF don’t care looks like.

I’m a middle-aged (44 to be exact), Latina, single, straight, cis woman. All these things have mattered when it comes to my relationship with my appearance. As a proud rebel, I spent my first 30 years on Earth not giving a shit about my looks. Actually, not wanting to look like I gave a shit about my looks, so kinda disheveled, kinda tomboyish, kinda wearing whatever was gonna make sure I could run from the cops just in case the need ever arose.

Then, the genetic charge of the women in my family took over, and I wanted to look nice, and pretty, and so I started wearing lipstick pretty consistently, and a few years ago, even mascara most days. I feel so put together! So produced! I like it. Like I care about me and I like looking good. Awesome. The next step was putting stuff on my face to make sure I don’t look like a raisin too soon, cause I love the sun above all things and I try to be in it as much as a human in the early 21st Century with a computer job can, which ain’t that much, but still. That’s when I discovered the planet of “skin care”, including facials (which is when you pay someone a shitton of money to put cream on your face – wtf?!?!) and heard about even more drastic things, like Botox.

OK, Botox is a chemical that you INJECT in your face and it smooths out wrinkles. Allegedly it works really, really well, and it has become the total norm amongst my crew: professional middle-aged women. Like, they all do it. Well, 9 out of 10 I would guess, anyway. There’s no stigma to it, no one thinks it’s weird, women just go right the fuck ahead and inject a PARALYZING TOXIN into their third eye so they don’t look like “they’re frowning” all the time.

That’s the explanation I’ve heard from those who admit to it. A bunch of them still wanna make you believe they just “woke up like this”, with an unnaturally smooth forehead that is looking less and less unnatural every day as more and more women include it as part of their beauty practices.

So, I’m jealous. It is true that the wrinkles are gone with this treatment. It is also true that I’m vain as fuck and would love to not have any wrinkles, especially not on my forehead where you “just look tired” or “angry” even when you’re not (that’s what the Botox peddlers pitch, at any rate).

But this is the thing: if there’s a weird side effect, Imma be the lucky one to get it. If I were to ever try Botox, I’m pretty sure I would be bruised for like 2 weeks flat, looking worse than pre-treatment. Also, it ain’t cheap, and as an activist without a trust fund, I can think of better uses for my money. But most importantly, I am a feminist and a spiritual seeker, and the mass adoption of injections of a paralyzing toxin into the exact spot on our body where we connect to the divine, where our intuition is said to sit, where we can channel visions from other realms, does sound a lot like a conspiracy. I’m not suggesting it is, but to paralyze women’s third eye is a metaphor that is too powerful to ignore.

In these times we need all of the feminine wisdom, all of the sacred messages, all of the transformative visions we can get. And while I don’t really think Botox literally gets in the way of any of that, I’m not willing to chance it. Because metaphors are powerful, and words create reality, and I’d rather look like I’m tired and angry even if I’m not really any more tired and angry than any healthy woman living in the industrialized West would be…Imma gonna have to live with the fact that I’m more wrinkled than I “need” to be because I refuse to change my interface with the Goddess, even if I know it transcends physicality.

And also, NEEDLES.ON.MY.FACE.

Come on.

PS: If you use Botox, yeah! You probably look amazing – no judgment. And also: don’t tell me how much better I would look if I did, please and thank you.

 

 

The Tech Bubble

The Tech Bubble

 

So, yeah, this is where the world meets startups, didn’t you know…

As you know, the economy is a collective hallucination. It is not a natural occurrence that we have no control over, it is agreed-upon consensus reality that we create by implementing policies, laws, tariffs, and all kinds of regulations that are agreements between humans. For historic reasons that are worthy of a book and not a blog post, the current collective hallucination we have agreed on is benefitting a very few incomprehensibly rich people at the expense of most of us. This is not news. But what I do want to make sure we all understand is that this is a collective hallucination, and as such, we can choose a different vision.

Case in point: I live in San Francisco and I’m fascinated by the tech sector, which is like water to a fish if you live in my town. Pervasive, unavoidable, omnipresent. And, as someone who grew up waiting by a radio for hours to hit record on a cassette tape to get my favorite songs, of course I feel like Spotify™ is The Future and I Have Arrived. So, not a hater, a big fan of tech in many respects. But back to my argument about the economy. Check this out: last week, I read this article on Angel List (Angel.co) about a company that went public but is not doing as well as investors expected. This seems to happen a lot in Silicon Valley. This is Angel List’s analysis of why that might be the case:

The common thread among all of these companies is that, while their large growth numbers and massive addressable markets made them darlings in the venture capital world, their lack of profitability devalues them in the eyes of investors on the public market.

The fact that there is some misalignment of value models between venture capitalists in the private market and stock traders on the public market isn’t news by any means, but exactly how misaligned the two markets are is still uncertain.

Translation: companies are growing and growing and growing (because investors are pumping a shitton of money into them, whether the companies are profitable or not), and once they have to actually make money “in the real world” like the rest of us, the companies kinda fail because without a sugar daddy supporting them, the rest of us realize that what they’re selling is kinda bullshit and we’re not buying it.  Oops.

I’m writing about this in the context of my work, which is spiritual and planetary evolution, because an economic system that ignores the ultimate reality of birth, death, and rebirth, is ultimately doomed. We cannot expect a company to grow and grow and grow without shifting over time or providing some real value to the people it’s meant to serve (which is where the profit would be coming from). Why are we prodding up companies that apparently offer no real value to real people? And in the process mess with entire economic systems that affect real people’s real lives?  I genuinely don’t get it. This is what I do know: I’m not an economist, I’m certainly not an investor, and I’m not a technologist. So why aren’t those folks wondering what kind of insane elements they are contributing to the collective hallucination that is our economy? Why aren’t they wondering if we can ground work in the reality of life, which is about constant change i.e., birth, death, and rebirth, and not perpetual growth? It just baffles me. I’m sorry I can’t offer you any more definitive answers, but we have got to at the very least dare pose the questions.

 

 

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